Monday, December 15, 2008

Praying in Anguish

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Luke 22:44

It is, on the surface, a remarkable and a true thing, that in the midst of this most joyful season of the year, many, many folks are full of anguish. Getting through this season, when they are expected to be happy, is excruciatingly painful. When we look slightly deeper, we know of many people who have lost loved ones in this season. We know many others for whom this season brings about terror - they remember all too well the abuse they took at the hands of broken parents, or they remember failure and inadequacy, being unable to provide for others. For many, the holidays are best avoided because the pain is too great. Some churches even offer a service called "A Blue Christmas", in order to provide some comfort for those whose experience of the season is anything but positive. Even in the most joyful and abundant of times, there are many who are feeling ground down and at their end. They may hide it well. They may be sitting right next to us and you and I might never know. But deep anguish is there in the midst of every celebration.

Jesus understands the enormity of what he is facing and in prayer asks for the burden to be lifted, taken away. He is no coward, but he is fully human, fully incarnate, and like us, overwhelmed by what we sometimes have to face. In this Advent Season, our readings are set dead center in the midst of Christ's passion. There is no Christmas season without the Passion. There is no living that does not encompass anguish. And there is no wondrous birth that does not inflict tremendous pain. So here we are, caught with Jesus on our knees, praying for relief and praying for strength for the mission of God.

May we all remember today that all of us carry deep pain every day. Even those who seem constantly joyful are not without tremendous challenges. May we hold each other tenderly in the coming days. May we hold each other in prayer as we await the celebration of Christ's birth in Bethlehem. May we be granted the strength to wade through the anguish until Christ is born anew in our hearts this season.

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